AUST – HENDRY building surveyors advise that the means of activating a fail-safe device to unlock an exit door is often misunderstood, especially with regard to shopping centre tenancies. For shopping centre tenancies not more than 200m2 in size, Clause D2.21(a)(ii)(C) of the Building Code of Australia (BCA) provides an exemption from the door hardware provisions.

Otherwise, for shopping centre tenancies greater than 200m² in size, final exit doors or doors in a path of travel leading to an exit can only be secured closed by means of an electronic lock incorporating a fail-safe open device that operates in accordance with Clause D2.21(a)(iv) of the BCA. This sub clause requires the automatic unlocking of the door upon activation of an AS 2118 sprinkler system or an AS 1670 fire detection system, anywhere in the building.

This means that a fire trip activated in any part of the building must automatically unlock the secured tenancy door, that is, making it fail safe.

The following illustration from BCA Illustrated depicts the requirements for a power operated sliding door in exits. (Please note BCAI ‘Issue’ and ‘Explanation’ not included.)

Where there is no fire detection system or sprinkler system installed throughout the entire building, the installation of a stand alone smoke detection system within the subject tenancy only, will not meet the above deemed to satisfy BCA requirements for an AS 1670 fire detection system, unless it is a separate fire compartment.

Note that, since the introduction of the 2007 version of the BCA on 1 May 2007, there has no longer been the option for a fail-safe control switch to unlock such doors.  This concession has now been restricted for use in banks, detention centres, mental health facilities, early childhood centres or the like only.

As an alternative, in order to achieve BCA compliance, alarmed doors which are always openable, with suitable “DOOR ALARMED – EMERGENCY USE ONLY” signage, and, if necessary, key card or the like operation for staff without alarm activation, is a deemed to satisfy option.

Otherwise, an Alternative Solution addressing the relevant Performance Requirement(s) of the BCA must be proposed.

Building Legislation Table

Refer to our Building Legislation table for further information on the building control process.